Now Available in White
Day 493 – November 26, 2012
My lack of Spanish has left me scratching my head over what I’m sure is an interesting story I read in a newspaper.
In this Monday’s weekly section of El Comerico called Dia_1, there is a small sidebar story with the simple headline of Toyota vende autos blancos (Toyota sells white cars).
I’m not quite sure why it’s big news (or even small news) that a Japanese car company is offering the color white as an option for its vehicles. To my mind, white seems to be a fairly standard hue (examples are here and here and here).
The Dia_1 article had a picture of a white Toyota with the caption Retorna el color de la paz (Return of the color of peace).
The word “return” would mean, to me, that the color of white was once available in Peru and then, for whatever reason, was taken off the market.
I had hoped the actual story would answer my questions as to why white was once a taboo color in cars and why it has now come back. However, I was disappointed as my less-than-perfect translation of the article did not satisfy my curiosity. Here is the text…
La compania Toyota del Peru ha retornado la venta de vehiculos de color blanco en el pais. Segun expertos en marketing, la marca japonesa descontinuo en los ultimos anos este color de su portafolio de productos, como una manera de evitar que la mala reputaction de los autos de timon cambiado de esa marca contagie a los de timon original. Ahora que se ha prohibido la importacion de autos usados con timon a la derecha, nuevamente se haria viable la venta de autos Toyota del color de la paz.
This is the translation that Google Translate provided me…
The company Peru Toyota has returned to selling white cars in the country. According to marketing experts, the Japanese discontinued in recent years this color of its product portfolio, as a way to prevent the bad reputation helm of cars changed from getting to that brand of original rudder. Now that it has banned the import of used cars with the right rudder, this again makes feasible the sale of Toyota cars of the color of peace.
What appears to be throwing me is the Spanish word timòn which Google translates to “helm” but can also mean “rudder”, “tiller”, or “wheel”.
So did Toyota stop selling white vehicles in Peru because of some unfortunate event in the past that tainted the opinions of Peruvians towards carros blancos? Does white have some sort of cultural red line that Peruvians did not want to cross?
This article in microcosm exemplifies my experience as a non-native Spanish speaker living in a country where English is rarely spoken. When people speak to me or when I read articles in newspapers and articles, I feel as if I have only understood the tippiest tiniest part of the linguistic iceberg. There is so much more nuance and meaning that I am missing that I can only wonder what lies beneath.
Some days it’s missing out on why white cars are back on sale and some days it’s missing out on why and how people feel the way they feel.
As a parting note, if anyone has a better translation of the above story or knows why white was once a verboten tint, please feel free to drop a thought in the comment section.